Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lemon Scones with Orange Marmalade

Lemon Scones

The best scones I ever had were at the Savoy Hotel in London for afternoon tea. After many tries, I feel I have perfected the scone. Just made this morning for our breakfast and served with Orange Marmalade from Frog Hollow Farms.

3 C. Flour
2 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking powder
½ t. Salt
Zest of one large lemon (for best results, use a microplane)
2/3 C. Butter, cut into small cubes
1 C. Milk (2% Lowfat)

2 T. Half and half
2 T. Sugar

In a large bowl, place the flour, 2 tablespoon sugar, baking powder, salt and butter cubes. Mix together and use either your fingers or a pastry cutter. Continue until the butter is a fine grain. Add the milk and mix together. Once well combined, place the dough onto a well floured cutting board. Knead with a bit of the flour until a bit less tacky. Flatten to about one inch thick. Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter out the scones. Continue the process of kneading the dough together and press to one inch thick and cut scones until the dough is gone. Place onto a non-stick or lightly greased cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 375. Brush each scone with the half/half and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite jam or preserve.

Makes about 16 scones

Friday, May 29, 2009

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

My husband and I uncovered the outside grill a few days ago. Early summer is in the air and what better way to kick it off, then grilling meat in the backyard. Flank Steak has always been a favorite and there are hundreds of sauces, marinades and rubs you can use to transform Flank Steak. I used McCormick’s classic Montreal Steak seasoning and a classic Argentine sauce called Chimichurri.

Six Easy Steps to Cook Flank Steak

Lay the Flank Steak out on a cutting board and remove excess fat by using a sharp knife. Again using a sharp knife, score the surface of the steak with 1/4 inch deep knife cuts, about an inch apart, across the grain of the meat and then flip the steak a half turn, and score again to resemble a diamond pattern.

McCormick’s Grill Mates, Montreal Steak is a classic seasoning. Sprinkle a generous amount on each side and let the steak come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill on high and it will be hot enough when you hold your hand about an inch over it and you can only hold it there for about a second.

Place steak on the hot grill. If you are using a gas grill, close the lid. Grill for 4-6 minutes on each side. About half way through grilling on each side, turn the steak 90° to give you more grill marks.

Typically Flank steak is best eaten medium rare, but cook to your desired doneness. When the steak has cooked to your preference, remove from the grill and place on a cutting board with edges to capture the juices. Cover with foil to hold in the heat and let rest for 10 minutes to absorb all the juices back into the meat.

Use a serrated knife to make very thin slices, against the grain. Best to slice at a diagonal, so you gain the widest slice.

Chimichurri Sauce

1 Bunch flat leaf parsley
9 Garlic cloves
¾ C. Olive oil
¼ C. Red wine vinegar
3 T. Lemon juice
1 Shallot, diced
1 t. Salt
½ t. dried oregano
½ t. dried basil
½ t. freshly ground black pepper

Add all the above ingredients to a food processor or blender. Pulse together until all ingredients are combined and it is a creamy bright green color.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grilled Filet Mignon with Parmesan Garlic Butter

My husband and I had a “Saturday” night meal on a Monday night. We love Filet Mignon, but don’t have it very often unless we go out to Ruths Chris for dinner. I grilled onions to accompany the Filet Mignon along with some sautéed yellow squash. Opened a nice Cabernet and watched the season finale of 24! (Is Jack going to live another day to battle the bad guys?)

Seven Steps to a Perfect Filet Mignon:

1. Season the steak with salt and pepper, then let the steak sit for about 30 minutes to soak up the flavors and come to room temperature. This will allow for even cooking.

2. Sear the filet mignon steaks on both sides to lock in moisture and flavor. Set the grill to its highest temperature settings and place steaks on the grill, cooking each side for 3 minutes with the lid down. On a charcoal grill, place the steaks directly over the coals to sear.

3. Turn the grill down to medium. On a charcoal grill move the steaks off to the side away from the coals. After searing, filet mignon needs to be grilled slowly at lower temperatures to keep the juices in and keep the meat from getting tough and remain tender.

4. Cook filet mignon to medium, medium-rare or rare with the lid down. Filet mignon is usually cooked to medium-rare or rare because above medium rare it begins to lose taste and tenderness. However, if you do not like eating rare steak, cook it to medium.

5. When you become masterful at grilling, you will be able to touch the steak with your finger or a fork and know by the “feel” of the steak what stage of “doneness” it is at. Typically when soft to the touch, it is more on the rare side. As the meat becomes less soft to the touch, it is more well done.

6. Remove steaks off the grill when they have finished cooking to your preference. Recommend using tongs so that you don't cut it and allow juices to escape. Cover with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving, to let the juices absorb back into the meat.

7. Place the filet mignon on warm plates when serving so the meat maintains its temperature and you can cover with tin foil. If desired, sprinkle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the filet mignon just prior to serving, to add flavor. Finish with Parmesan Butter on top of each steak for added flavor.

Parmesan Butter Recipe:

Serves four

4T. Butter
½ C. Fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 T. chopped flat leaf parsley

In a medium ramekin, add the butter and let soften to room temperature. Once soft, add the parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley. Mix together and place into the refrigerator to harden. When ready to serve, top each steak with the butter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Corn Salsa

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Corn Salsa

Corn Salsa

1 ½ C. Fresh corn – cut from ears
¾ C. Red bell pepper, small dice
½ C. Red onion, small dice
3 T. Olive oil
2 T. Sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients above to a bowl and mix together. Season with the salt and pepper.

Prepare four chicken breasts. With a mallet, pound each one to help with the tenderness of the chicken. Typically I will coat with olive oil and seasoned salt and fresh ground pepper. Grill until done.

Place on plates and top with the fresh corn salsa. Serve with your favorite vegetable. I thought the snap peas made the plate pop with color and the crunch is fantastic. Simply cook for 3 or 4 minutes with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Great weekday meal!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brogan Cellars Chardonnay - 2005

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Brogan Cellars Chardonnay – Alexander Valley – 2005

Friday night was extremely hot and we had guests over for dinner. Selected this wine and chilled it. It was outstanding! The buttery yellow color was amazing and the undertones in the wine were so unique.

It starts with aromas of macadamia nuts and sherry and is sultry and rich. A vibrant wine with flavors that include baked apple pie, roasted chestnuts, toffee, and crunchy layer of burnt sugar in a crème Brule. The finish is long! A big and buttery Chardonnay that you will want to enjoy without food for the first glass. Make sure it is not too cold; otherwise the flavors will not come out.

Recommended Food Pairings:
Crab cakes with lightly scented lemon aioli
Grilled salmon with light butter herb sauce
Triple crème cheese with pears and walnuts


Monday, May 11, 2009

Cinnamon Apple Tart

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Apple Tart

I have adapted this tart slightly from the Barefoot Contessa’s version. Ode to Ina!

2 C. Flour
½ t. Salt
1 T. Sugar
10 T. Butter (cold and diced)
½ C. Ice cold water

4 Granny Smith Apples
½ C. Sugar
Zest of one lemon
4 T. cold butter, small-diced


¼ C. Apricot Jam
1 T. Contreau

For the pastry, use a food processor. Place flour, salt, sugar and butter into the processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine. With motor running, pour the ice water down the tube and pulse until the dough comes together. Dump onto a floured board and knead until it comes together. Flatten into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour or longer.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick spray.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Use a ruler to make it exact.

Peel the apples and use a corer to take the middle out. Cut each one in half and slice crosswise ¼ inch slices. Arrange in straight or diagonal rows. Fill in the gaps with the extra slices. Sprinkle with desired amount of cinnamon and evenly distribute the lemon zest. Dust evenly the sugar across the entire tart. Place the small dices of butter over the tart evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Turn pan halfway through baking process. If pastry puffs, use a knife to poke an air pocket. The juices will flow and burn, no worries, this expected. Once brown, remove from oven to cool.

In a small pan, heat apricot jam and contreau together. Use a pastry brush and paint the entire tart. Cut into desired amount of pieces and serve.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

15 Tips for a Mother's Day Brunch

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Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Traditionally our family celebrates Mother’s day either by going out to a brunch buffet in San Francisco or the East bay. This year we decided to go to my sister’s house and have a homemade brunch celebration.

As a family, we divide and conquer the brunch duties to relieve stress for everyone. My contributions for this year’s brunch was a colorful fruit salad, savory breakfast bread pudding and the Barefoot Contessa’s French Tart which I put my own spin on the recipe. (Recipes to follow this week)

Authentic Suburban Gourmet’s top 15 tips to throwing a successful Mother’s Day Brunch:

1. Pick a date, location and time. Sundays are traditionally the best brunch days.

2. How many should you invite? - For a cozy brunch, no more than 4-6, including you. If you are planning a buffet, you can invite 8-12 if you can fit everyone in your house. It is important to keep in mind the size of your home, as most items for brunch may not be finger foods, and your guests will need a table to sit around to enjoy their food.

3. Determine your invitation list. Invite some friends and/or family members. A phone call or e-mail is sufficient for a casual brunch; send written invitations if the meal is celebrating something special. With the web 2.0 age, use evite or blast out to your friends and family on facebook.

4. Create an “event blueprint” that includes that includes your shopping list, menu, guest list, timelines, check list for things such as house cleaning, music & getting yourself ready. If you work off a detailed list, the event will go off without a hitch!

5. Plan a menu that you'll enjoy preparing with dishes that are easy for you to make and can do ahead of time. Pancakes and fruit bowls with pastries, hash browns and quiches are good choices for larger groups of people. Eggs, bacon, omelets and sausages are easily prepared for smaller numbers.

6. Variety is Key - Serving a variety of sweet and savory breakfast and brunch foods is key to a successful party, so make sure you have a selection of eggs, breakfast meats, fresh fruits, and breads.

7. Shop one to two days before and prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Clean your house in advance as well. A few hours prior to the event, spot clean your guest bathroom and make sure fresh towels are out and a new roll of toilet paper is on the holder.

8. Wake up early and prepare yourself for the arrival of your guests. If you can prepare certain dishes at this time (pastries, for example), do so. Use the checklist and put timelines to complete your tasks - this will keep you ahead of schedule and less stressed.

9. Plan to take care of getting yourself ready at least two hours prior to your guests arriving. This is a key step!

10. Set the table, and decorate it with fresh flowers or with other items you choose. If you can do this the night prior, your stress level will be reduced and one thing to check off the list.

11. Have coffee, soothing music and a subtle scented candle burning ready for your guests. I love having a candle burning in the guest bathroom. Depending on the size of the location or your house, set up stations for coffee and food.

12. Greet each guest with enthusiasm and a welcoming smile. Take their coats, handbags and any other items. Determine ahead of time, where you will store these; perhaps in a guest room or den. Have your beverages ready to offer to your guests. A mimosa is a traditional brunch cocktail or prepare a special signature drink to add that extra added special touch. In your spare time, whip up the remaining dishes.

13. Typically guests are always willing to help - a smart host takes them up on the offer. If a guest offers to bring something, review your menu and then choose an item for them to bring. If they ask to help at the event, let them pour water, serve coffee or help bring out the food items to the buffet table.

14. Setting up the buffet table. Place the plates at one end of the table, so your guests know to start there. If you are having cold and hot dishes, strategically place the cold together towards the plates and the hot next. Make sure that you have flatware bundled with napkins at the beginning of the brunch line or set at the place settings at the table.

15. Let your guests know that you are ready to start the brunch service. Once all of the guests have selected their food, then feel free to take yours. Then sit down and relax with your friends and family.